Digital games

<p>It is difficult to pick one digital theme that stood out at this year&rsquo;s ash-inhibited, but digitally switched on, London Book Fair, but the debate about whether a model might emerge for e-books that go &quot;beyond the book&quot; was particularly prominent. Driven, no doubt, by the multimedia capacity, jiggle- and flip-a-bility and sharp, colour-screened intensity of the iPad, a few of which were being flourished proudly round the halls by geeks who had pre-ordered from the US, this is a debate that is just getting really interesting.<br />
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The models range from &quot;straight&quot; e-books&shy; with DVD-style extras, through e-books with embedded multimedia and on to fully-fledged interactive, game-like experiences which would truly go beyond books, or, arguably, would not be books at all. But what do consumers really want and how much will they pay for it? And do publishers have a role to play in the new, truly transformative forms?<br />
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There is little doubt that the e-book with DVD-style extras will enjoy no more than a short existence. Dedicated fans may be motivated to pay more for additional material, but the extra content must offer genuine added value. Lazily bundling in marketing videos is not enough.<br />
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When it comes to embedded or synchronised multi&shy;media, the jury is still out. Many agree that video or audio snippets embedded within narrative text are distracting, but for certain contexts it might work. A non-fiction e-book on music, for example, could well be illustrated with contextually appropriate music clips. Some believe that auto-synching audio with text could be a winning formula, enabling people to switch from reading to listening while walking. Educational content could be enhanced by illustrative multimedia assets and interactive exercises. But, in general, just because we can, doesn&rsquo;t mean we should; matching form to content will always be important.<br />
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Two possibilities for stretching the e-book should cause genuine excitement. One is the &quot;networked&quot; e-book, where built-in tools and functionality linked to the social web enable readers to share their favourite passages&shy; or connect with other readers in a myriad ways. The other is the possibility for publishers to take the lead in imagining new forms entirely, where narrative becomes deeply entwined with the elements of game. For both of these, publishers will need to work in conjunction with new partners from platform owners and technology companies to games developers. Publishers would have to acquire, develop and curate content that goes way beyond text and static image, and it remains to be seen which publishers might be brave enough to embrace this.&nbsp;</p>